Monday, 20 September 2021

Your letters

Don’t sell off school field

Don’t sell off school field

Sir, – Now that the Secretary of State for Education has granted consent for the sale of Gillotts’ playing fields behind Blandy Road and Makins Road, I have the following comments to make:

Secretary of state permission to dispose of school land simply means that the site is now made “available” but in no way implies the granting of planning consent. This process has still to be gone through.

Perhaps Nicky Morgan wanted to clear her desk before the election. Whatever her reasons, I am surprised that consent has been granted so quickly, especially as the Education Funding Agency, advising the Secretary of State, is supposed to take advice from the school playing fields panel, which I understand to be Sport England. Yet the latter do not appear to have been consulted, judging by their response to the draft neighbourhood plan consultation just a couple of weeks ago. It appeared to be the first time they had been invited to say anything on the subject. Consent therefore may well have been granted without due consideration of the sporting issues.

What local sports aspirations, for example, have been taken into account? Henley Rugby Club and AFC Henley, both with about 900 junior members between them, have physical limitations on their operations, while Henley Town Football Club has just one pitch to play on. None of them can expand without more land and all their existing pitches are in flood plains yet they have never once been consulted about their needs by either the school or the Education Funding Agency. They would grab those “redundant” pitches with open arms.More to the point, Gillotts cannot dispose of the site in question without first demonstrating that the land in question is genuinely redundant or that it can replace it with equal or better facilities. This is a requirement of any application for the disposal of playing fields and gives rise to two crucial questions:

1. Are the planned multi–user games area and the levelling of other parts of the school site adequate substitute facilities for the “redundant” pitches (which is what Sport England should be commenting on)? It is highly unlikely that any rugby or football club will want to play competitive matches on an artificial multi–user games area surface.

2. Will the school succeed in getting planning permission for the multi–user games area given the potential objections to noise and to light pollution from floodlighting? Without the multi–user games area it cannot begin to justify disposal of the playing fields.

Finally, when making her decision, why did the Secretary of State not consider it important to wait for the outcome of the draft neighbourhood plan consultation to see whether the community at large is behind Gillotts’ plans? We now know that the community is not.

Given this, and taking account of the outstanding questions and myriad hoops yet to jump through, some posed by organisations invited to comment on the draft neighbourhood plan, the argument is surely strengthened in favour of an alternative funding strategy for the school’s improvement project. Note that the latter is a glorified nice–to–have since the school buildings are in a perfectly good state of repair following an earlier injection of £600,000 from the Academies Capital Maintenance Fund.Our Sustainable Funding Action Group would be happy to sit down with South Oxfordshire District Council policymakers, local councillors, community leaders and those involved in the neighbourhood plan to discuss alternative funding options. We have creative ideas to share but they need resolute community commitment behind them and a determination to avoid the disposal of not only a cherished greenfield site but a valuable educational asset that should be preserved for future generations. – Yours faithfully,

Trevor Howell

Sustainable Funding Action Group,

Blandy Road, Henley

People’s input discouraged

Sir, – If the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan is to be disregarded and if Gillotts School is allowed to sell off its playing fields for housing development, what use is it? And what use is it if the plan fails to:

a) ensure that the required extra housing is built in the best locations, rather than the most easily purchased parcels of land

b) ensure that local infrastructure is adequately improved to cope with the extra people, traffic, parking, etc. resulting from that new housing and

c) solve the underlying congestion problem (caused by the lack of a bypass and second river crossing)?

A cursory glance at aerial photography shows that there is little green space within the Henley parish boundaries and that what little there is should not be built upon, whereas there are some undistinguished greenfield sites on or near Henley’s peripheries (but which technically lie within neighbouring parishes with plenty of green space) which would be eminently suitable for development – non–brownfield parts of Highlands Farm, Thames Farm and various fields along the Henley to Reading road in Shiplake or Harpsden parish.

Thames Farm and the Shiplake sites have the additional advantage of being close to an out–of–town railhead (the halt at Shiplake) and are on the “right” (i.e. Reading) side of Henley for much of the extra traffic resulting from development to be kept out of Henley town centre altogether, since residents of new houses in these places would be likely to work in Reading, commute to/from/via Reading and shop in Reading.

As it stands, the plan simply scatters housing development in penny packets throughout the parish.None of the sites is big enough to justify significant new local infrastructure in their own right and some of them replacing the kind of job–creating local businesses on which the economic wellbeing of the town depends.

It has no over–arching strategy or vision, beyond spreading the misery.

Wide consultation about the neighbourhood plan has been discouraged in some quarters, debate has been stifled, and the process seems to have become dominated by councillors and former councillors with precious little opportunity for genuine input by the people of Henley beyond the handful lucky enough to serve on the otherwise unrepresentative and select working groups.

I strongly oppose the sale of the Gillotts playing fields, which seems to be a pretty cynical effort by an already satisfactorarily resourced school to grab more cash for itself at the expense of the environment and the wider community, including local sports teams and clubs who could easily find use for the “surplus” pitches. – Yours faithfully,

Jon Lake

Blandy Road, Henley

Village needs housing plan

Sir, – The Government has relaxed the planning laws to allow more houses to be built with less control, so our green belt land is a prime target for builders.

Regarding the minimum of 86 houses still to be built in Goring under South Oxfordshire District Council’s core strategy 2031, the chairman’s annual report states: “The parish council’s favoured site is GOR1â?¦ All the housing allocation could be built on this site.

” The district council’s own landscape study recommended that development be avoided on GOR1. GOR1 is a green belt site, outside the boundaries of existing development and 86 houses on it represents sprawl that would put that housing closer to South Stoke than to the centre of Goring.

The big question is where these homes need to go. We have to have these homes built. I would like them to enhance, not degrade, our village. Personally, I would like to see several smaller developments of good quality housing in several places, including GOR1 if the villagers deemed it, rather than a single, large new estate.

To allow villagers a greater say Goring needs a neighbourhood plan which, very importantly, would need the support of the majority of the village.We have asked the parish council to consider a neighbourhood plan. It is calling an extraordinary general meeting next week to discuss and vote on this issue, where there will be a public forum.Please, we need your support by attending. The date will be announced on the parish council website and notice boards.

We need a neighbourhood plan as it would ensure that development in Goring over the next 15 years reflects what we, the residents, want for our village. It is a legally binding document, given legal status through the Localism Act that must be respected by planners. It allows us to agree, as a community, where development takes place and the type, size and design of new developments.

With a village plan we can also consider the infrastructure implications that I know many villagers are already concerned about. How does our village adapt to the extra children in our school, patients consulting our doctors and the increased traffic? A large estate at GOR1 is not within walking distance of the village centre. There would be an associated increase in traffic and parking in our village centre from 120–odd cars.We are lucky enough to live in a beautiful, thriving, award–winning village. A neighbourhood plan would empower us, the villagers, working with Goring Parish Council, to help meaningfully shape and determine how our village develops in the future. – Yours faithfully,

Dr Sarah Morton

Wallingford Road, Goring

Unconvinced by beds cut

Sir, – Again, the community is faced with an about–turn on Townlands from the latest of a long line of NHS bodies and representatives involved in the project. The latest disclosure is that there were no binding commitments from the stated users of the building when the build contracts for the site were signed more than a year ago.We have already seen evidence of this from the withdrawal of the planned Sue Ryder unit. This is despite assurances to the public and the Townlands Steering Group at the time that all the contracts were tied up. As a result, we have uncertainty and an attempt at a major reorganisation of the project a year into a contracted build and fit–out.The presentation on March 26 delivered a generalised view of desirable further services but, crucially, also the loss of the bedded unit, mitigated only by possible inclusion of “about five beds” within the separate residential care home. So from having one floor of the building dedicated to the 18–bed unit for step up and step down care, plus the freeing up of a second floor through the Sue Ryder withdrawal, there is now deemed to be no room/case for a bedded unit at all.Those with experience of seeing local people being bed blocked in major trauma hospitals, or transferred for step down care as far away as Witney, will doubt the claims of lack of demand. Of course, it is (as claimed) more satisfactory if more people can be looked after in their own homes but that does not mean that all can, straight from a major trauma unit, or that funds and availability of sufficient qualified people will be there to replace the in–Townlands care when needed. There are, of course, good suggestions in the proposal – more clinics, more diagnostics, more “one stop shop” treatment etc, and these should be explored using the additional available floor from the Sue Ryder withdrawal. There may also be a model worth exploring for supporting a small bedded hospital unit with more linkage to the 24/7 oversight of the care home.But it would take some very sound facts (currently missing) to support a bed number below the current size and a clear model of how the medical care and medical accountability would be delivered. We do not yet have any of this. There is also the key issue of continuity of bedded service to be satisfied with the old wards currently scheduled for demolition before completion of the care home. In summary, to diminish what we have committed already in bedded care, the NHS bodies still have a major challenge to provide a  meaningful, fact–backed justification for their new proposal, a lot of consultation and convincing and, critically, a lot of trust to re–establish. – Yours faithfully, Robert Aitken Lower Assendon

Nonsense suggestion

Sir, – As a retired nurse who worked for six years at Townlands Hospital, I would like to say that suggesting 18 beds at the new hospital are not needed is total rubbish.In my opinion, most of the beds at the present hospital are not filled by people recovering from a hernia or any other minor operation but elderly people who for one reason or another have to spend time in a hospital bed.Yes, they would be happier in their own homes but we do not live in an ideal world and this can be problematic.Sometimes they need not only specialist equipment but 24–hour supervision which would be impossible in a home environment.The NHS and social services do not have the resources to cope if this was the norm and sometimes these people stay in these beds waiting for a more permanent one at a care home. It is a sad fact that they often have nowhere else to go.In my opinion the decision by the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group to consider only having five beds is more of a money saving exercise than what is good for the community.These people should get off their Mount Olympus and see the real world, not what they think it should be. – Yours faithfully, Ms M A Butler Stoke Row Road, Peppard Common

Thank you for caring

Sir, – Through the Henley Standard, I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank the Royal Berkshire Hospital’s haematology team in Adelaide Ward (Charlotte Starmer–Smith Unit) for their attention and care during my husband’s specialised treatment for an extremely rare and life–threatening blood condition.I should also like to extend a huge thank–you to the orthopaedic team who acted quickly following an unexpected turn of events.My husband’s treatment will be ongoing when he is discharged and this will take place in West Ward (outpatients), another department where he was receiving transfusions for the best part of 2014.I would like to take this opportunity to mention how appreciative I am for the kind and personal way in which they continue to carry out their work.Our family feels confident my husband is in the best hands and we are keeping our fingers crossed for a successful outcome.Hopefully, it won’t be too long before my husband and I are able to get back to some normality so that we can enjoy our retirement.I feel it is important to give credit where it’s due, as not enough of this is done.So, once again, thank you to the teams at the Royal Berks for taking care of my husband’s every need, the NHS for making this specialised treatment possible and to all the kind and thoughtful people who make time to donate their blood. – Yours faithfully, Rowena Waddington Caversham

Political utopia

Sir, – Recently I visited political utopia – Wallingford Town Council.

All councillors on Wallingford Town Council stand for election as independents, whatever their political leanings nationally.They stand as independents because they want to work for the town without party politics getting in the way – they stand to be counted on their own merit. What a difference in the atmosphere in the council chamber compared with Henley Town Council – all was calm, many matters were discussed and everyone’s opinion was heard.Not once was there a “point of order, Madam Mayor”, no grandstanding and no “I am sure if you look at standing order 46â?¦”.Decisions were taken, not always unanimously, but democratically. Nothing was rushed – planning was discussed and voted upon by the whole council because the whole council cares about what is happening in their town.When a matter was raised the chair of the committee dealing with it read out the deliberations of the committee and answered any questions raised.The councillors obviously have a lot of respect for each other. The council meeting had a long agenda yet it was over very expediently.At the end of the meeting each councillor was asked where they had been on behalf of the town during the past month. Some had been to the new exhibition at the museum, for example, supporting a town–based event, being seen there to give the event more credence.There are some larger councils in the UK which follow the same independent, non–political make–up and get so much work carried out during their meetings.I have always thought, and a lot of residents agree, that national politics should have no place in local parish councils and I think Wallingford Town Council showed that to be very true. It was really wonderful to witness true democracy in action. – Yours faithfully,

Jennifer Wood

Independent candidate for Henley Town Council,

Stoke Row Road, Peppard

Concerned by pollution

Sir, – I am a candidate standing for Henley Town Council in the elections on May 7 and would like to share some of the concerns that I have been hearing from the good people of Henley when I have been out canvassing over the last couple of weeks.Nearly every household I have visited has said that their main local concern is the noise, pollution and abuse of the speed limit as well as the damage to roads (especially potholes) and pavements caused by heavy goods vehicles.

A family I canvassed that recently moved to Northfield End said that they are concerned to let their children go out to play in Freeman’s Meadow because it is dangerous to cross the roads due to a lack of pedestrian crossings and because many of the lorries approach the roundabouts at great speed, as the noise can attest.

I also spoke to an older lady who has lived in Henley for 35 years. She is regularly woken up at 5am by her bed shaking from ground vibrations caused by the HGVs speeding down Fair Mile on to Northfield End.

As a resident of Northfield End myself, I know my little boy is often woken by this too, which is why I have big bags under my eyes...On Tuesday last week I was walking into town along Bell Street at lunchtime and watched in disbelief as the dri ver of an extra–long lorry shamelessly mounted the pavement at the corner by Asquiths in New Street with no regard for pedestrians.I am firmly of the belief that there is no need for this if the HGVs have no business in Henley. There are better, more appropriate roads for them to use and we need to fix this problem.Just because they may have paid their road tax it doesn’t give them the right to abuse the speed limit and damage our infrastructure, our town’s beauty and our peace and wellbeing.

I promise that, if elected, I will work with all the councillors on the town council as well as my Conservative colleagues at district and county as well as, of course, our MP to try to resolve this issue for the people of Henley and demonstrate that local democracy can achieve results where there is a will to work together. – Yours faithfully,

Dylan A Thomas

Conservative candidate for Henley Town Council,

Northfield End, Henley

Residents who truly care

Sir, – As you reported last week, Conservative–led Oxfordshire County Council wanted to give away £400,000 of public land in Bell Street to a private developer for nothing.

This land was to be sold for car parking spaces costing £40,000 each.In August 2012 the public inquiry led by Mr J S Nixon of the Department for Transport decided that it was public land and must remain in public ownership.

Henley Town Council fought the sale of this land and won. Henley Residents’ Group took the principled stand that this was public land and should not be given away.The Henley Conservatives disagreed and voted that this land worth £400,000 should be given away to the developer and to people who can afford £40,000 for a car parking space.Please also be aware that, notwithstanding the huge effort put in by members of HRG to win this issue, another resulting benefit from their success is that the one remaining little bit of green can be left as it is.Under the commercial parking regime that was proposed, significant chunks of the green were to be carved out to make way for parking lots.The inquiry decided this and the county council has now apologised publicly on two occasions for taking three years to sort out the parking arrangements. Thank goodness we have a residents’ group that truly looks after the residents of Henley and is prepared to work extremely hard on their behalf. – Yours faithfully,

Mr and Mrs C Russell

Bell Street, Henley

Investment in defence

Sir, – I thought you might be interested in this letter I have sent to our MP John Howell, who circulated quite widely the Government’s position on defence.“Dear John Howell, Thank you for your document on defence spending. I have one or two comments, if I mayâ?¦ First, regardless of a country’s economic situation, defence of the realm is a government’s first priority.Second, in this day and age, air power is the vital factor in both defence and attack. Unlike you and your Conservative minister friends, I have lived through a world war, much of it on RAF bases that were under the command of my air commodore father, who was also a pilot in the First World War, so I picked up a few hints on the importance of aerial warfare.Third, you state that your coalition Government has kept military spending at two per cent of GDP through to 2020. Is it not true, though, that the true position is a reduction to 1.88 per cent next year and 1.7 per cent by 2020, even though you dress them up by the disingenuous inclusion of MI5 and other extraneous costs to inflate them to two per cent? Is this a way for a leading member of NATO to behave, especially when the Americans have expressed concern about our position? Fourth, why, when you have ring–fenced in law 0.7 per cent for international trade, have you not ring–fenced in law (a genuine) two per cent for defence? Fifth, do you deny that British fighter squadrons have over recent years been reduced from 26 to seven? Do you deny that Air Chief Marshall Sir Michael Graydon recently stated that Britain can no longer defend itself against the military threat posed by Russia? Do you deny that Tupolev nuclear bombers have been testing our defences for some while, while Russian nuclear subs which sail our waters again have no anti–submarine Nimrods to dodge because your Government cut them all up before they were completed? It also sold off or destroyed most of our Harrier jump jets. And did not David Cameron announce the other day that Russia is a graver threat to us than Isis? Was that remark made with, or without, the knowledge that Russia is to lease 12 of the latest SU–24 supersonic jets to Argentina? Sixth, I am sure you will know that in addition to the huge challenge of Isis in Iraq, Syria and Libya, our allies the oil rich Sunni Saudi Arabians and their Sunni Yemen allies are now at war with Isis, Shia Yemenis and their Shia Iranian allies. In other words the complete Middle East, the historical source of many of our gas and oil reserves, could go up in flames any day. So if now is the time to reduce our real defence spending down to 1.88 per cent and then 1.7 per cent and fail to ring–fence a real two per cent, I think our leaders originated in some other planet. I’m very glad I was not there with them.” – Yours faithfully, David Silvester Independent candidate for Henley Town Council, Luker Avenue, Henley

What’s next, councillor?

Sir, – While examining who was standing in the forthcoming elections, I couldn’t help but notice that David Silvester has put himself up for a position on Henley Town Council again.Readers will remember that Mr Silvester was the man who declared that the nationwide floods and storms of the winter of 2013/2014 to be a punishment from God and the fault of the Government for talking about legalising gay marriage.He even had a delightful story about a wedding venue being struck by lightning to add some credence to his crackpot theory.I can’t help but notice, however, that since gay marriage was finally made legal the weather has been rather clement.Last summer was delightful, autumn was gorgeous, winter was mild, and this spring, so far, has been very spring–like.Can we therefore assume that last year’s flooding was not the fault of the legalisation of gay marriage, and assume that it was, in actuality, a punishment bestowed because certain people objected to this fair law? I remain rather confused and slightly anxious that Mr Silvester standing for election again may result in hurricanes, tornadoes and the dawning of a new Ice Age. – Yours faithfully, Simon Brickhill Goring Heath

Time for answers

Sir, – Over the past couple of weeks I have attended political hustings with the parliamentary candidates for the Henley constituency. I find it quite amazing how they do not respond to questions on finance, so through your paper perhaps we will get answers before we vote on May 7.When Labour left government in 2010 they left a national debt of some £750billion and said the coffers were empty.If that was the case how come this Conservative/ Liberal Democrat government has more than doubled this debt to £1.56trillion? It also costs nearly £50billion to service this debt annually.We were told that the budget deficit (£130billion per annum) would be wiped out at the end of this Government, yet it is still running at £90billion. What went wrong? We are still being told being part of the EU is good for us. It costs £23million a day to be a member (£17billion a year), yet our deficit in trade is running at £67billion annually. How good is that? Put on top of that the net increase of 300,000 immigrants (don’t blame them, blame the Government).This makes David Cameron’s job very insecure as his words when he entered government were: “If I do not reduce it to tens of thousands then vote me out.” There are an estimated 700,000 more people on zero–hour contracts. This is where you phone up at 6am to see if you have any work. These “hard working” people are now worse off than if they were on benefits. Can this be right? Disability benefits, we are told, have been reduced but who does our MP John Howell blame? Oxfordshire County Council. Why is it their fault? Simply because government funding has been cut back. One could go on about the number of food banks that has more than doubled over the past five years, the bedroom tax, university tuition fees, the VAT increase, the £12billion cuts proposed by the Conservatives if elected in the next government, it just goes on and on. Where is this so–called “feelgood factor”? I look forward to an honest reply from Mr Howell to tell us where it has all gone wrong. – Yours faithfully,

Ken Arlett

UKIP candidate for South Oxfordshire District Council,

Elizabeth Road, Henley

Don’t demean charity shops

Sir, – I respectfully refer to the front page article regarding empty shops in Henley (Standard, April 3).

As an unpaid volunteer in one of the five charity shops in the town, I find Gillian Nahum’s comment that “we should be wary not to have too many cafés or charity shops” somewhat demeaning.Surely either of those are better than boarded–up or blanked–out windows of empty premises? At least they are working for the good of the world or community and attract footfall to the town.Thanks to the amazing generosity of the people in what is a wealthy area, the charity shop in which I work enjoys a very worthwhile turnover and has a great team of like–minded folks who have a lot of fun while raising money for a good cause. – Yours faithfully,

Bruce King

Fir Tree Ave, Wallingford

Where were the notices?

Sir, – A new planning application for two five–bedroom houses on the land adjacent to St Leonard’s Church in Watlington was registered by South Oxfordshire District Council on March 27 (ref. P15/SO941/FUL). On its website the council is requesting comments on the plans by May 1.

The application was on the agenda for Watlington Parish Council’s planning committee to discuss at its meeting on Tuesday last week, just 11 days after the application.

Three hours before this meeting was due to start, the district council placed a single notice of planning application to inform the local community of the new application.It is a very strange situation when the application to be considered by the parish planning committee takes place before the closure of date for comments on the district council’s website.It will be interesting to see what date in May, following the closure of the comments period, the committee chooses to discuss the application. It may be they consider the application important enough to defer their decision until after the May 7 elections when a new committee may be in place.

This is a new planning application in a conservation area and not a revision to the original plan and should be treated with the importance it deserves. – Yours faithfully,

John Burslem

Pyrton Lane, Watlington

More facts in school debate

Sir, – Congratulations to Andrew Rogers for his informative and thoughtful contribution to the Heights Primary School debate (Standard, April 3). This is precisely the kind of detail which should be available to residents of Caversham and South Oxfordshire who wish to vote in the public consultation and which is so conspicuously absent from the misnamed “information pack” which has been presented to the public by the Education Funding Agency.

Residents seeking a balanced, factual comparison between the five proposed sites for the new free school will not get it from that body.We might have expected certain key pieces of information for each site, such as:

l How long it might take the agency to acquire the land.

l The estimated cost and timescale of each build.

l The solution of any foreseeable difficulties arising from the characteristics of the site for the three public sites, where any compensatory land of the right sort might be provided, or how much financial compensation might be offered instead bearing in mind the market value of the land required for the school.

l Whether additional facilities would be needed for the school if a particular site was chosen and where these might be provided.

l A traffic study for each location.

l An objective summary of possible delaying factors.

The agency has provided none of this and the stakeholder groups that attempted to include such information in their contribution to the information pack were required to remove it. Instead, the agency has merely presented the public with a series of impassioned and conflicting pleas by the defenders of each site.The stakeholder groups have strongly held and sincere views, which they have every right to express, but many of these views are already known and they are no substitute for factual detail.So we should be grateful to all those who are giving us some objective information on which to base our voting decision.In addition to Mr Rogers’ summary, I recommend the open letter sent recently by Kidmore End Parish Council to the chief executive of the Education Funding Agency regarding the addition of a fifth site in Oxfordshire to the list of proposed locations for the school.

The letter begins by pointing out that the agency included the land at Farthingworth Green (which it describes as Dyson’s Farm, land at the junction of Shepherds Lane, Tokers Green Lane and Kidmore Road) in the consultation without giving any prior notice to the parish council, Oxfordshire County Council or South Oxfordshire District Council.

It then describes why the site would be unsuitable, saying: “Farthingworth Green is the only site outside the boundary of Reading Borough Council (and thus the school’s educational catchment area) and is located within South Oxfordshire.

“The selection of that site would be seriously detrimental to, and destroy the urban and rural balance currently safeguarded at, the boundary between Reading borough and South Oxfordshire, would involve protracted and uncertain negotiations between Reading Borough Council and local government within South Oxfordshire, the policies of which are directly and fundamentally opposed to this form of development, the consequences of which could only be a massive increase in residential development and would appear to be unwelcome to the parents of children living within the Heights Primary School catchment area.

” The parish council concludes by demanding that the site be removed from the list of proposed locations, saying that “the combination of detriments is so great, when considered in isolation and even more when considered in comparison with other sites within the catchment area, as to outweigh any possible benefits”.

The full text of the letter is on the parish council’s  website.Residents of Caversham Heights and South Oxfordshire may like to bear these facts in mind when making their decisions. – Yours faithfully,

Malcolm Pemble

Save Farthingworth Green campaign,


Build and they’ll come

Sir, – Julie Huntington’s letter (Standard, April 10) pointed up a flaw in my original argument for an arts centre for Henley: who will go to it? Julie’s reasoned, sensible and well–argued piece pointed out that trying to fill theatres these days for anything is hard work and she is right. She also points out that the Henley Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society kept the Kenton Theatre alive for decades and would be unlikely to desert it now. I understand and appreciate her loyalty, but I’m not sure it is well–placed.

I should say straight away that Jules and I have been good friends for 11 years: I have acted on stage with her and been directed by her. She has done the same with me and I bow to no one in my admiration of her ability. We are now, and will continue to be, good friends.

The romantic in me goes back to my original suggestion that if we build it they will come. I still think that and suggest that Jules’ idea that bigger acts would automatically gravitate there instead of the Kenton is pessimistic.

We have seen the likes of Richard Digance, Shappi Khorsandi, Michael MacIntyre, Jeremy Hardy and even, a few years ago, Dilly Keane all passing through the Kenton to sell–out crowds.

But the attraction of the Kenton to them and their managements is that it’s a small, out–of–the–way theatre close to London where they can Beta–test their acts before taking them on big–venue tours. It will still be that.

The bigger question, and one that I failed to address or acknowledge, is the issue of falling numbers of bums on seats.I have another guise as a theatre reviewer for this paper and often talk to professional theatre administrators: they are struggling as much as the amateur theatre to get people in, possibly more so.This has been a trend for at least five years as our social habits have undergone a major change – staying in has become the new going out and with the option of cheap booze and cheap high definition movies on demand in your living room, it’s difficult to see how we in the live theatre can counter that.

All that said, I wish Jules and HAODS a very successful run with their adventurous choice of production this week, Sunshine On Leith. And I know she and they wish us well at the Sinodun Players with our show, Life Of Riley, which is also this week. – Yours faithfully,

Mike Rowbottom

Stoke Row

What became of old boat?

Sir, – Now that the roundabout on the approach to Henley is being redeveloped, I would like to know the whereabouts of the boat that latterly was moored there.I think that as a Henley artefact of some renown, it should receive pride of place in our River and Rowing Museum.

Does anyone know the history of the boat? Perhaps it was a Dunkirk survivor for all we know of its heritage. – Yours faithfully,

Mike Huntington

Swiss Farm, Henley

Amusing confusion Sir, – A headline on Homes Weekly read: “Buyers still not converse with MMR rules” (Henley Standard, March 27).Either your writers were not conversant with English vocabulary and relied on the spell checker or the converse that they were right and the spell checker made it wrong. Either way, you need to have a conversation with them.

Conversely, you could just let it be so we can look forward to future chuckles. – Yours faithfully,

David Watson

Cold Harbour, Goring Heath

Image of cosiness

Sir, – What an image of cosiness has been conjured watching goldfinch busily pecking wool from fencing around the sheep’s paddock.

Surely the ultimate in luxury for a fledgling’s nest! – Yours faithfully,

Diana Jackson


Beautiful Red Kites soaring overhead

Sir, – I took these photographs of red kites near The Henley College rugby pitches just off Valley Road a couple of weeks ago and wondered if you would like to share them with other

Henley Standard

For those with knowledge of cameras, I was using a Niko D300 body with a 300mm f2.8 lens. – Yours faithfully,

Tim Capps


Sun going down on a spring evening

Sir, – I took this picture of Phyllis Court Club in Henley at dusk. I hope you like it. – Yours faithfully,

Victoria Page


Wonders of nature

Sir, – I hope you like this photograph taken on a walk with Bisto our labradoodle near the common at Ewelme on Thursday morning last week.

The catkins of a pussy willow are quite intricate, are they not? This one looks like the head of a bird of paradise. – Yours faithfully,

Terry Allsop


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